“Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”

[For YAB] Today I remembered a conversation with YAB while I was doing diversity research for NYU and stumbled across a journal article titled “Are Emily and Greg more Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” During the YAB retreat the members went off on many, many tangents, but there was one in particular that I let run for a little longer than I usually permit because it was one of those interludes that was funny and incisive and tragic all at the same time.

During the “What Do You Bring to the Table?” exercise everyone had been saying and spelling out each other’s names, which eventually led to someone making a joke that if you were named “Quadasha Brown” you would never be able to get a job. At the time everyone was giggling like crazy, but the moment registers in my memory as bittersweet. For what does it say about our society when our young people already know in their bones what two researchers need to do fieldwork on to verify?


The brief wondrous life…

[For Dale] OK, so perhaps I took my aversion to reading or watching anything that debuts to great fanfare too far by avoiding Oscar Wao for this long. I just wasn’t expecting it to be that great. I mean, Drown was a solid read, but I didn’t end up thinking about it all that much after finishing it. And to tell you the truth, I was half expecting Wao to be a mildly annoying throwback to nineties-style identity lit. But boy that first chapter is so darn charming. Diaz’s prose just swept me along, page after page. I’m pretty sure I read the beginning with a smile plastered on my face the entire time.

What struck me most about the novel is how its allusions draw from so many different fields of knowledge and experience, that I found myself constantly and alternately pulled in and pushed away by the text. Copious footnotes notwithstanding, so many of his references remained opaque to me (also: totally not motivated to look up all the nerdy sci-fi stuff). I suppose I can bump This is How You Lose Her farther up my reading list.

Guest blogger!

When the lovely Lindsay Adamski from New Yorkers For Children mentioned that she’d just finished a Paul Tough book that was on my reading list, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind blogging about it. Her answer was so immediate and so enthusiastic that I went ahead and invited her to babysit my blog while I went away for the next couple of weeks. I’m excited, she’s excited, I’m excited that she’s excited, etc. Make sure to check out her posts after Labor Day. Happy long weekend, everyone!

One quibble about Chris Nodder’s UX Fundamentals course

[For Rob] All in all, Chris Nodder’s User Experience Fundamentals for Web Design course on Lynda.com was very helpful for getting me to think about how I would like to approach building a web-based product/service (more on that later). But one bit of advice Nodder mentions twice over two hours bothered me enough that I woke up this Saturday morning irked by it, so permit me to get this off my chest.

Did you catch how he buttresses his tip to keep web copy short and simple by citing “the Oppenheimer study”? Apparently, the study proves that readers tend to judge authors who use complex language as being of low intelligence. As someone highly sensitive to matters of language (and who knows that there are studies and then there are “studies”), I looked up the article. READ IT. Really.

Of course: websites that are trying to get visitors to take action in some form or another should be clear and concise. And I agree that academic writing should not be pretentious or stilted. But please let’s not cite the Oppenheimer study to argue these points.


Finding what you look for

[For Candice] Have you been making your way through the articles in Emerging Adulthood? There is one particular article (I won’t publicly say which, but you can probably pick it out) whose authors seem to set up their experiment just so by identifying what to them are the most salient variables related to the behaviors of emerging adults, and then lo and behold, their surveys confirm their hypothesis. Do social scientists shy away from surprise in research?

About a boy

“I am what I am, and intend to be it,” for which there will be no form in the world unless Jacob makes one for himself.

—Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room (1922)

The Waves is no doubt the most singular book on friendship in the English language, but because my copy is part of a double edition, poor Jacob’s Room went unnoticed for years. How glad I am to have finally read it. Compared to the demands of The Waves, one can positively tear through Jacob’s story (though, really, one should never “tear through” Woolf’s prose—how beastly). It is a tender telling of a young man’s life. We witness him come into his own intellectually, travel the world, and attempt to decipher the differences between love, sex, and attraction. 

Jacob would have shared Woolf’s disdain for the middlebrow, though unlike Woolf, he is terribly earnest in his pretensions. As such, Jacob’s Room captures perfectly how the idealism of youth collides with the absurdity of adult life and the chaos of the world. Here is Jacob on the cusp of adulthood, still in formation, though already so much himself:

Insolent he was and inexperienced, but sure enough the cities which the elderly of the race have built upon the skyline showed like brick suburbs, barracks, and places of discipline against a red and yellow flame. He was impressionable, but the word is contradicted by the composure with which he hollowed his hand to screen a match. He was a young man of substance.

Anyhow, whether undergraduate or shop boy, man or woman, it must come as a shock about the age of twenty—the world of the elderly— thrown up in such black outline upon what we are; upon the reality; the moors and Byron; the sea and the lighthouse; the sheep’s jaw with the yellow teeth in it; upon the obstinate irrepressible conviction which makes youth so intolerably disagreeable—”I am what I am, and intend to be it,” for which there will be no form in the world unless Jacob makes one for himself.

And when you finish, I recommend you read through “Middlebrow” for a laugh.

It’s not just teenagers

A recent article in the East Bay Express gave an interesting snapshot of what it’s like to be young and wealthy in Silicon Valley. In the course of her interviews with employees working for companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, the author was surprised to find that many were actually living paycheck to paycheck, regardless of their paycheck’s size. To make sense of the phenomenon, she turned to Carl Richards, a financial planner whose clients include members of the tech world. He remarks that a lot of tech employees cannot envision themselves decades into the future, and as a result have a difficult time with financial-planning exercises:

There’s a common financial-planning exercise that asks participants to try to imagine themselves and their lives in twenty, thirty, forty years — where do you want to be living? What do you want your job to be like? According to Richards, some tech employees have particular trouble with it: “There’s this problem with not understanding risk because you sort of think it will always be this easy — you’re young, you’re on top of the world. And that leads into this issue of not being able to imagine your future self.”

Not planning for the future while working in an industry that shifts as rapidly as technology is to court danger. These are people in their twenties and thirties, working white collar jobs in lucrative businesses. In a way, being so highly paid at an early age can be a disservice to young people, because if individuals never have to struggle to make a living, they don’t have to peer inside themselves and ask the really tough questions.

Framing questions

The two questions that run through all the units in the Transitions to Adulthood program are:

  1. What is an adult?
  2. How (and when) do you become an adult?

I like to put those questions early on to the group as a way of placing on the table early on many of the major points that will surface over the course of the program. In addition to these two questions, I also asked the group where they got their ideas about adulthood, since for some reason they were reluctant to mention it during the ice breaker/word association exercise.

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